Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || File 11.9 MB || Time 13m 0s || This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for February 3rd through to February 15th, 2008.
Palestinian and Israeli negotiators opposed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s desire to postpone talks on the status of Jerusalem. Israeli attacks on the West Bank and the Gaza strip leave four dead this week. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned.
We begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in the West Bank, IMEMC’s Elisa Sprout with the details:
Non Violence report
The villagers of Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with international and Israeli supporters, have conducted their weekly protest against the illegal Israeli wall being built on village land. Israeli troops attacked the protest and injured one journalist.
The protest began after Friday prayers, as has been the case every week now for the past two years, with participants marching from the village centre towards the construction site of the Wall; the Wall which, according to both the International Court of Justice and the Israeli supreme court, is being built on confiscated village land.
This week the protesters managed to reach the gate of the wall separating the villagers from their land, Israeli troops then closed the gate and fired tier gas and sound bombs at the peaceful demonstrators. Soldiers then fired rubber-coated steel bullets which injured a journalist, Imad Burnate and broke his Camera.
‘When the people arrived at the gate of the Wall soldiers opened fire without any reason, no one have done anything, when they first fired I was injured, one bullet hit me in my ear and two hit the camera which was then destroyed. They saw that I had a Camera with me and that I was wearing a press vest. I do not know why they fired at me.’
Whilst the protest was taking place a group of Israeli soldiers were using Palestinian homes located near the gate as shoot out posts. Local and international peace activists intervened and managed to make the soldiers leave the houses.
For IMEMC.org this is Elisa Sprout.
The Palestinian and Israeli negotiators opposed Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert’s desire to postpone talks on the status of Jerusalem to after 2008. This and more with IMEMC’s Raphael Anderson:
Foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, head of the Israeli negotiating team, sent out a letter to the mayor of Jerusalem, saying that concluding other issues like borders of a future Palestinian state and the problem of Palestinian refugees, before sorting out the issue of the status of Jerusalem, would be meaningless.
Livni made clear that according to last November’s Annapolis summit, both sides are supposed to tackle all outstanding issues including Jerusalem, by the end of this year.
The issue of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious negotiations concerns, as Israeli settlement activities in Jerusalem are ongoing.
This week, Ahmad Qurei, head of the Palestinian negotiating team, slammed an Israeli plan to construct 111 new housing units for settlers already occupying large settlement blocs in occupied east Jerusalem.
The United States, which hosted the Annapolis summit, will ask for clarifications from Israel regarding such a settlement project, U.S. State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, told reporters in Washington this week.
In the meantime, Olmert, voiced optimism on Tuesday, over possible agreement with the Palestinians concerning the borders of a future Palestinian state.
Olmert’s remarks came on the sidelines of a meeting with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel in Berlin. For her part, Merkel expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, yet showed understanding for Israel’s actions to stop Palestinian home-made projectiles being fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Earlier this week, Israeli foreign minister Livni, said she believed that a Palestinian state is unlikely with Hamas in power in Gaza. Livni said she is looking for a change on the ground, saying that Hamas is an enemy for both Israel and the Palestinians.
Concurrently, the ruling Hamas movement in Gaza and the Palestinian government in Ramallah labeled the Israeli actions on the ground in both Gaza and the West Bank as an ‘impediment to peace ‘.
Israeli right-wing cabinet ministers warned Olmert against undermining the importance of stopping home-made projectiles being launched from Gaza onto nearby Israeli towns.
Meanwhile, the Hamas-dominated government said in a statement, faxed to press, that the ball is now in the Israeli court with respect to a possible truce, according to which Israel will halt all its actions against Gaza including lifting the eight-month-old siege, as Hamas ensures the stopping of home-made projectile fire.
Palestinian Prime Minister of the deposed government, Ismail Haniyeh has expressed readiness to consider any initiative, meant to end the current cycle of violence, following threats by Israeli officials to carry out a large-scale military offensive on the Gaza Strip, where Hamas holds sway.
Makhmar Abu Sa’da is a Gaza political analyst and professor of political science said peace is at a stalemate.
In a related development, Israeli foreign minister Livni, rejected a proposal by the Palestinian care-taker government, that presidential security guards take control of Gaza’s crossings to alleviate the suffering of the coastal territory’s 1.5 million residents. Livni believes that this can not happen while Hamas remains in power in Gaza.
Minister of Prisonersâ€™ and Ex-prisoners affairs, Ashraf Ajrami, described Livni’s position as negative, towards Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has boosted talks with Israel since taking office in 2005.
Also this week, senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud Az-Zahar, headed for Egypt for talks over who should control the Rafah crossing terminal in southern Gaza. The Rafah crossing is the main crossing point for Gaza’s population.
This visit is the second in a month after hundreds of thousands of Gazans flooded into nearby Egypt to bring essential supplies amidst a crippling closure.
Egypt and Abbas’ Palestinian Authority earlier agreed that the terminal be reopened with the return of European observers, an agreement Hamas has already rejected, as it is demanding a certain level of involvement in running the terminal.
The European observers were deployed at the crossing terminal following a U.S-brokered operation agreement in November 2005. Two months earlier Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, but kept an intensive presence and control over all its exit and entry points.
For IMEMC.org this is Raphael Anderson.
The Israeli attacks
The West Bank
This week the Israeli army conducted at least 31 military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these attacks, soldiers kidnapped 77 Palestinian civilians, including 10 children. IMEMC’s Morwenna Pencarrow with the details:
With this weekâ€™s kidnappings, the number of Palestinian civilians detained without charge by the Israeli army in the West Bank, since the beginning of 2008, has risen to 384.
Also this week, the Israeli army waged a fierce campaign against money exchange shops in the West Bank, abducting 11 shop owners and confiscating over 3 million NIS (US $830,000).
The majority of the kidnappings this week took place in the village of Beit Ummer, located near Hebron city in the southern West Bank. Israeli troops stormed the village at around 1:00am on Wednesday, placing the village under curfew and raiding scores of homes. Israeli solders kidnapped fifty-five local residents over the course of the invasion. All were men between the ages of 18 and 45. One day later troops left the village; taking 30 of the 55 to an unknown location and releasing the others.
A group of international human rights workers from the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) managed to enter Beit Ummer for several hours on Wednesday morning before the army forced them to leave the village. CPT worker Tarek Abu Atta witnessed the operation:
On Thursday evening, Palestinian medical sources reported that a Palestinian man was moderately wounded by Israeli gunfire during an evening invasion of Anabta town, east of the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem.
A mentally challenged Palestinian man from the town of Qabatiya near Jenin in the northern West Bank died on Thursday afternoon due to wounds he sustained last week. Taysser Nazal, 56, was injured last Thursday when the Israeli army attacked Qabatiya and abducted several Palestinian resistance fighters.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian teenager was critically injured on Thursday afternoon when a leftover bomb discarded by the Israeli army detonated near him in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem. Sources in Bethlehem said that Ala Obayiat, 18, was examining the device and trying to cut it open when it exploded.
The Jersualem municipality, controlled by the Israeli authorities, on Monday demolished a Palestinian owned house located in the Wadi Al Jouz area, in the eastern part of Jerusalem city. The house was constructed 30 years ago and is owned by Aishah Arraameen, aged 56. The Israeli municipality claimed that the house was built without a license.
Since 1967, when Israel occupied the city of Jerusalem, the Israeli army has only very rarely allocated any building permits to Palestinians of Jerusalem.
For IMEMC.org, this is Morwenna Pencarrow
The Gaza Strip
The Israeli siege on Gaza left two Palestinian patients dead this week, while Israeli army attacks on the region left three Palestinians dead, from Gaza IMEMC’s Rami Al Mughari reports:
Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported late on Saturday night that one fighter was killed and at least ten residents, including children, were injured in several Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. The sources stated that the Israeli air force shelled an area in Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip and killed one fighter; several residents were also injured.
On Monday a Palestinian man died of wounds he sustained last week. Saleh Nabhan, was admitted to Al Shifa hospital in Gaza on Friday after sustaining critical wounds after he was injured in an Israeli air raid that targeted Gaza City.
Also on Monday, two Palestinian patients died due to the Israeli army siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources reported. Medical sources identified the two as Fathiyyia Abu Wardah and Khadijja Al Aqaad. The sources said that they both died of cancer.
Medical sources said the two had applied to travel for treatment outside Gaza but the Israeli authorities refused to grant them permission, despite their illness. On Monday the Palestinian Gaza-based Ad-Dameer association for human rights told IMEMC that since June 2007, 103 Palestinian patients have died due to the Israeli imposed siege on the Gaza strip.
Sameer Mousa, a lawyer at Ad-Dameer, told IMEMC that the deaths of all 103 patients were related to the crippling siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel. He cited, lack of medical supplies and equipment and the fact that patients are not allowed to travel outside the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.
‘Thus who have died in the last period were patients with chronic illnesses and kidney failure, it was because of lack of medicine and second because the health sector in Gaza could not provide them with the needed care. 98% of them applied to the Israeli occupation forces to be allowed medical care outside Gaza.’
The Gaza Strip has been under total siege by the Israeli army since June 2007, shortly after the Hamas movement wrested control of the strip from Fatah. In September of the same year the Israeli government declared the Gaza strip a ‘Hostile Entity’ and stepped up its attacks. In January 2008 the Israeli army decided to further reduce the amount of fuel, electricity, food, and water supplies coming into Gaza.
On Tuesday morning a number of Israeli army tanks from an undercover unit arrived in the eastern neighborhood of Gaza City. Local Palestinian sources said that the Israeli troops clashed with a number of resistance fighters, who were deployed in the area trying to defend the civilian population.
Meanwhile, Israeli media sources reported that one Israeli soldier was wounded during the shootout, adding that troops kidnapped 30 Palestinian civilians.
For IMEMC.org this is Rami Al Mughari in Gaza.
And thatâ€™s just some of the news this week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out our website, www.IMEMC.org. Thanks for joining us from Occupied Bethlehem; this is Louisa White and Ghassan Bannoura.